Eulogy for a Gravel Road

Under the homeplace windows a road is being buried.
Pallbearers in orange suits pile sticky black shovels full,
Hiding the unshrouded gravel beneath these layers of asphalt
And fill, and rocks of a certain size, which are welcome,
Where her gravel is not. But she was a good old road.
Long-fingered pines were cut down to make way
For this NASCAR highway, where she meandered gently
Caressing the cow-paths that crossed her grated waist;
She always had time for us.

She carried my grandmother’s ambulance the day
We knew we had lost her, my mother riding with the sirens
And praying for one more year.  
My grandfather drove us to the hospital then, and
The dust of the road revealed a secret:
Two tracked lines of mud on the face
Of the old Dutch farmer who had buried
Cattle and children and year after year, wheat and corn
In the fields that run by the road. 

My mother and I both walked her, counting
The telephone poles and fenceposts
To keep track of the distance between us
And the people we needed to leave behind.
From wherever we were, we could see the end
Of our road, and know the pines kept watch.
We could leave, walking black dirt off our shoes, because
This road always kept our way home at her breast.

Now there is dirt on my boots, and I watch
From empty homeplace windows, the road
Interred in progress, in moving on.

—Sarah Hoover, Madison, WI